Defining “Arts Participation” for Public Health Research

Dec 8, 2023 12-1:00pm Eastern


Jill Sonke, Alex Rodriguez, and Aaron Colverson, University of Florida

While significant work to define “arts participation” has taken place in the arts sector, less work has been undertaken for the purpose of researching the arts in public health. This study developed a definition for “arts participation” to guide a national arts in public health research agenda and to advance and make more inclusive previous work to define the term. The final definition includes modes, or ways, in which people engage with the arts, and includes examples of various art forms intended to frame arts participation broadly and inclusively.

This definition has the potential to help advance the quality and precision of research aimed at evaluating relationships between arts participation and health, as well as outcomes of arts-based health programs and interventions in communities. With its more inclusive framing than previous definitions, it can also help guide the development of more inclusive search strategies for evidence synthesis in this rapidly growing arena and assist researchers in developing more effective survey questions and instruments.


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Jill Sonke

Jill Sonke, PhD, is Director of Research Initiatives in the Center for Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida (UF), Director of National Research and Impact for the One Nation/One Project initiative, and US Director of the EpiArts Lab, a National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab in partnership with University College London. She serves on the steering committee for the Jameel Arts & Health Lab and served during the COVID-19 pandemic as a senior advisor to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She an affiliated faculty member in the UF School of Theatre & Dance, the Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases, and the Center for African Studies, as well as an editorial board member for Health Promotion Practice journal. Dr. Sonke is a dancer and a musician, a mixed methods researcher, and has 28 years of leadership in the field of arts in health. She is the recipient of numerous awards and over 350 grants for her programs and research in the arts and health.

Alex Rodriguez

Chosen to represent “Discovery & Innovation,” one of six core values at the University of Florida (UF) in 2022, Alex Rodriguez, MPH, values and practices research at the intersection of arts and public health. As a current Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar and Public Health PhD student in the Social and Behavioral Sciences concentration, Alex primarily pursues research with UF Center for Arts in Medicine’s Interdisciplinary Lab. Alex has previously developed and led a grant funded, mural-based vaccine confidence project which was selected for a Cam Busch Award (Honorable Mention) by the National Organization of Arts in Health. Further, she has had the opportunity to contribute to arts in public health research such as CDC field guides on how to utilize the arts to promote vaccine confidence as well as the Oxford Bibliography for the field of Arts in Health. Alongside her continued research at the University of Florida, Alex is working with One Nation/One Project — a national arts and health project across 18 cities in the United States — as a National Research and Impact Associate. Additionally, Alex developed a UF Honors course titled Leveraging the Arts to Promote Public Health which is currently being offered as an honors course at UF.

Twitter: www.twitter.com/alexkrodriguez

Instagram: www.instagram.com/alexandrakrodriguez/

Aaron Colverson

Aaron Colverson is a doctor of philosophy from the University of Florida in Ethnomusicology, with partnering research in Neuropsychology. He received a fellowship to study music and prosocial interaction in Alzheimer’s disease and endeavors to build cross-disciplinary competency between ethnomusicology and neuropsychology in the context of gerontology. Aaron studies rhythm perception, learning, and performance in aging using a mixed-methods approach involving neuropsychological assessment, a rhythmic musical activity, and functional magnetic resonance imaging. He was accepted to a hybrid postdoctoral/leadership-training fellowship with the Global Brain Health Institute and Memory and Aging Center of the University of California, San Francisco which began this fall. He graduated from Berklee College of Music with a BM in Professional Music focused on jazz violin performance after which, he moved to Nairobi, Kenya for two years, embedding himself in East African musical traditions and cultures.

Aaron is a Research Associate with the University of Florida’s Center for Arts in Medicine (CAM). He has contributed to numerous projects of the CAM’s Interdisciplinary Research Lab, including the scoping review on associations between arts participation and well-being (Pesata et al., 2022), arts participation as a health behavior (Rodriguez et al., 2023), and the recent definitions paper on arts and public health (Sonke et al., 2023). Aaron also co-led a component of the CAM’s COVID-19 Response called Performing Public Health, specifically the Remote Cultures team, and contributed to a keynote presentation for the 2021 a2ru National Conference. This work will be featured in an upcoming Routledge Companion series.